While the Kings clean up defense, more varied offense could still keep them afloat
Hi friends. A few days ago I posted this chart:
…on Twitter. And one of the results of that was getting asked to post a bit about the stats from the Road Trip From Hell on this blog. So, hi.
I know what you’re going to say – yes, Dallas, all is forgiven, yes yes, I know. Also, I get that this is woefully out of date by the standards of the Internet, but what can you do?
The Kings just finished an awful visit to the Eastern Conference, and that is documented above, the graph shows their Corsi differential in close situations. And it shows it plummeting. Naturally, being hockey fans, this is as good an excuse to panic as any. And being Kings fans, I’m sure visions of 2013: The Year They Only Won At Home were dancing in everyone’s heads. But, despite the infancy of the season, and setting aside that this is the smallest of sample sizes, can we glean anything stat-wise about why this trip was so shitty? And if it really means anything for the rest of the season?
Jewels From the Crown posted an interesting comparison piece earlier today, but let’s take a stab at a little more.
Here are the ground rules:
- I’m looking at all this stats in 5vs5, close situations. Because why fuck around with score effects, right?
- I’m analyzing data from the first 13 games of the year, which looks like this:
- Home: SJS, WPG, EDM, STL, MIN, BUF, CBJ
- Away: ARI, PHI, PIT, DET, CAR, DAL
- We’re looking at Corsi, not Fenwick, because Corsi counts more events, which in a sample size this small is good for us. But Fenwick trended the same way.
So, what can this first handful of games tell us about the Kings and home-vs-away differences?
Here’s the graph of their Corsi% broken down into home and away:
See those two home dates with low Corsi scores? One of those is the game against St. Louis, which was essentially a draw, and the other is the game vs Minnesota, which goaltender Jonathan Quick legitimately stole for the Kings. If we color code by result, where green = regulation wins, yellow = a game that went to OT or a shootout, and red = regulation losses, we get a chart that looks like this:
Wins correlate nicely with higher possession which correlates nicely with home games. God, okay, yes, you super already knew that, I get it.
Shot attempts against changed slightly more than shot attempts for between the homestand and road trip, although those changes alone aren’t significant. And actually, a lot of things (faceoff, save percentages, etc) were really quite similar at home vs away.
If looking by player, we see the following breakdown in home (left) versus away (right):
(Click for larger)
Almost everyone gets worse with the exception of Justin Williams and Kyle Clifford, who seem to be doing really well on the road so far. Hmm.
When looking at a more traditional deployment chart (offensive zone starts vs QualComp), we get this:
(Click for larger)
What should really jump out is how much harder life got for 70-77-73, because line-matching still matters. The Kings obviously had less control over choosing opponents for each line to face on the road.
That really gets to the crux of the problem: at home, it’s easier to shelter the currently-hot scoring line, and put them in really good situations to bank a bunch of goals, but that also lets the Kings play sloppier defensively and get away with more. Once they hit the road, other teams started shutting down their Hot Hands and boom, they started losing games. The Kings could keep losing a number of road games until they get their defense and possession game back in order consistently.
The flipside of this is that other players, like Williams and Clifford, might end up seeing slightly softer minutes. And as happened in the game against Dallas, if other Kings players contribute offensively and balance scoring, everything should be fine. Enter Brown, Clifford, and American Hero Trevor Lewis.